England Squad – Countdown Continues

by Wally Downes

Friday, May 7th, 2010
 

Defenders

IN: John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Glen Johnson, Matthew Upson, Leighton Baines, Wes Brown, Michael Dawson.

Filling a 23-man squad seemed an easy enough task at the start, however, just five minutes in to the conundrum and not only am I torn between defenders but I cant even decide how many to take. I have settled on eight, I considered a brave seven but, with injuries blighting my options, one more seems more vital than optional. Once that mathematical brainteaser was out the way it was time for the stalwarts, shoe-ins and certainties to pick themselves again, or so I thought. In truth I started with a list of 23 defenders, everyone a genuine candidate, well Jonathon Woodgate might be considered wishful thinking. When Fabio Capello first addressed the British press, upon his appointment as boss, he placed a hell of a lot of emphasis on form being paramount to his team selection; in doing so he may well have made a rod for his own back.

Rio Ferdinand, one of the best three defenders in the world for the past 10 years, is a shadow of his former-self. A few months ago I implied that his off-field exploits, magazines, restaurants, film productions and record labels, might be the scourge of his season, now I feel almost repentant as he is so clearly crippled with back problems.  A meager 12 Premier League appearances, six shy of the 18 showings that seasoned sick-note Ledley King has put together instills very little confidence. So often Ferdinand’s fleet of foot was the perfect foil for John Terry’s lack of pace, the two combined to make a dream pairing, in Rio’s current condition that is far from the case.

Too much has been made of John Terry’s apparent lack of form since his extra marital activities become public knowledge. You try to go about your business with 50,000 screaming obscenities at you and its bound to cause a wobble, in a months time it will all be forgotten, as will Wayne Bridge who will be offloaded by Manchester City and exiled from the national team.

For some good news finally, the fourth best statistically rated defender in the Premiership, according to Actim, is English and has missed just a handful of games in three seasons. Leighton Baines is 25 and is about to complete another stellar season for Everton; in the last three years he has played 90 league games and attracted plaudits throughout English football. He is, first and foremost, a tenacious defender and a reliable left-back. He quality of his delivery has secured him the role of free-kick taker for David Moyes side and the Scots manager can regularly be heard championing his £6 million man. Stephen Warnock has shown a similar level of consistency and reliability, in the same position, at Aston Villa but Baines edges it as Ashley Cole’s back up.

Wes Brown, Matthew Upson and Michael Dawson make up my remaining defensive cover. Brown offers cover in any position across the back four and has shaken off the youthful over-exuberance that previously allowed mistakes to creep into his game. Matthew Upson is a large part of reason that West Ham are still in the Premiership, a solid yet cultured defender, one of the top ten this year. All the noise over Ledley King’s involvement seems short sighted when you consider that, yet again, he has played half a season while Michael Dawson has held things together for Spurs for over 30 games and grown in stature as a defender. Dawson has statistically had a better season than Upson but experience would guarantee Upson the third choice centre-half spot.

Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott have not got enough match time in while Gary Neville’s re-established importance, in Alex Ferguson’s side, meant he goes close but he looks increasingly vulnerable up against pace.

Paul Konchesky and Ryan Shawcross can consider themselves unlucky not to make my completely irrelevant cut. Konchesky has flourished in a Roy Hodgson side that is primarily a 4-5-1 defensive one, which counts against the former Charlton mans inclusion in Capello’s 4-4-2. Ryan Shawcross is going to be a big player for England for years to come, already a commanding figure in a Stoke side that has established itself in the Premiership with his help. The fallout form the Aaron Ramsey incident has counted against the 23-year-old. The three game ban, incurred from the resulting sending off, came at a crucial time and making his return in a 7-0 defeat to Chelsea did not help. Gary Cahill and Micah Richards have struggled, one with fitness the latter with form and they too look like occupying England spots in the future.

The fallout from Sven Goran Eriksson’s reign is still damaging as Jamie Carragher, despite an impressive season with faltering Liverpool, refuses to make himself available for the new Italian chief, while Sol Campbell gets a ‘thanks but no thanks’ from me.

We do have an abundance of talent in defence, some players at their peak, some over the hill and some real prospects, the key will be getting the right balance. Capello will have to earn his money when it comes to selecting his defenders but if anyone can do it I fancy the Italian can.

This is a video of my nan ranting about politics,

purely her for the fun of it

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